Memento for Time Travel on the Web

Information on the web has introduced new wants and needs for end-users, researchers, and digital curators alike. The most common web protocol, HTTP, lacks temporal information representation capabilities, so archived web content typically has disconnected URI protocols. Our current web archives are siloed by domain or URI; web navigation across sites in a specific point in time has not yet been developed.

Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) and Old Dominion University are experimenting with providing seamless access to archival content without disrupting the web navigation experience. In 2009, the team introduced a solution to the challenge of finding and navigating to existing historical Web information. Some web servers have archival capabilities, that is, they store versions of content over time. Many other servers have no local archival capabilities, so they only host the current version of web content. Using Transparent Content Negotiation for HTTP (RFC 2295) and developing an API for archives of web resources, they released a Chrome extension that lets a user “time travel”: at each link on a webpage, a user can choose to browse in the present time or a user-chosen date in the past.

Institutions who are still grappling with archiving their web content will still need to fulfill this work in order to take advantage of Memento–this tool builds on existing archived content, and web navigation behavior. However, for those institutions whose archives are set-up, I’d recommend checking out Memento!


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